Chesterfield Teachers’ Union campaigns for collective bargaining rights | Education


The Chesterfield Education Association is the latest teachers’ union in Virginia to assert the right to collective bargaining.

Although a state law repealing the ban on collective bargaining for local government workers went into effect more than a year ago, only two school divisions have passed a resolution allowing collective bargaining — the city of Richmond and Arlington.

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Until last year, Virginia was one of three states where local government and school board workers were barred from unionizing. A compromise bill passed in 2020 overturned the ban, but included the caveat that individual localities must vote to allow their employees to bargain.

“The option is there, but we don’t see much success, in part because it has to go through a political process,” said Rip Verkerke, director of labor and employment law studies at the faculty of law from the University of Virginia.

Of Virginia’s 132 school divisions, the Chesterfield Education Association is one of eight other local teachers’ unions actively seeking a resolution from its school boards, according to the Virginia Education Association.

“Allowing collective bargaining shifts the balance of power in favor of workers… and so I suspect that even fairly progressive jurisdictions may have mixed feelings about allowing collective bargaining and that probably explains their slow take-off from this new right. “, Verkeke said.

CEA President Christine Melendez announced the campaign on Friday and said the union would work this fall to communicate with staff and collect signatures. Signed permission cards can be used to call an election among workers after the school board passes a resolution, or to force the board to vote if it does not voluntarily submit a resolution.

The Richmond school board in December became the first in Virginia to recognize teachers’ right to negotiate contracts. The Arlington School Board voted in favor of a similar resolution last May.

Bernard E. Smith, who was 18 at the time of the January 28, 2020 murder, admitted shooting Frank Farrens after he was driven home.

The Chesterfield Education Association is the latest of eight localities currently in the process of passing a resolution, according to the VEA.

“We need to have a say in our contracts because when they are short and vague, we are taken advantage of. People burn out and leave, which creates instability for our students,” Chesterfield teacher Elise Petersen-McMath said in the CEA announcement. “A good contract is long and explicit, setting out exactly what is and isn’t in the job description, including the materials we need to do our job.”

Some local teachers’ unions, like Henrico’s, are still in the planning phase. The Henrico Education Association’s collective bargaining committee has been meeting for over a year, but has yet to approach the board. HEA President Patrick Miller said the union will work on it this school year.

“I feel good that the educators at Henrico understand why this is something we do, and I feel good in our ability to convey this not just to the school board, but to the Henrico community as a whole,” said said Miller. “We are definitely looking for the support of parents and families, as improving our working conditions will improve the learning conditions of their students by giving us what we need to teach our children.


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